The Yellow Wallpaper

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TheYellow Wallpaper

Theshort story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman titled TheYellow Paper (1982)discusses a woman who is suffering from a mental problem. She isafflicted by depression, which is treated with “rest cure.” Thestory shows a woman who is constricted by parameters determined bymen. The story mentions that she has a baby, but she is not allowedto see it. Mary takes care of the child (Perkins649). The woman is enduring mental instability, most likely,postpartum depression. Her husband encourages her to stay indoors asa form of treatment. It makes feel disturbed especially the yellowwall paper in the room but she cannot say no to her husband. Thoughshe is a married woman, her husband treats her like a child. He makesher spend most of her time indoors and confined in a room that sheleaves on rare occasions.

TheYellow Wallpaper shows patriarchal ideology, especially the way it ismanifested in the nineteenth-century marriage. The narrator is givena cure that has detrimental effects on her. She cannot express heremotions and thoughts to her physician, who happens to be her husbanddue to the fear of being ridiculed or dismissed. The male dominatedideals result in more harm than good. She can feel the treatment isnot working and knows what would do her good. The room downstairswould have made her feel better, nevertheless, her husband says no.She is forced to stay in the depressing room with yellow wallpaper(Perkins648).

Thenarrator believes in the values and norms of patriarchy such as menare naturally superior to women. For example, she takes her husband’sideals as absolute facts. She hates the room where she is cramped butstays there because he asserts that it is right for her healthcondition. Furthermore, he laughs at her, but she thinks that is whatevery woman experiences in a marriage (Perkins647). Being a patriarchal believer, she has accepted to be treatedbadly by her husband, John. Even when she disagrees with him, shedoes not dare ask a question. She only says, “What is one to do?”(Perkins647).

Johnrefers to his wife in a belittling way at times. He calls her littlegirl when she wakes up at night in fear (Perkins652). Marriage, to them and the society during their time, was aninstitution where women were ignored and treated like children. Thiscritique goes a long way to drive the point home that a woman’sideologies are valid and as important as those given by a man does.It is clear that if this woman had followed her thoughts and ignoredher husband, she would have improved. Their marriage is based on malechauvinistic ideologies that make her so powerless that she ends upfalling deep into the mental illness.

Inthe story, Gilman’s analysis of medical practices used back then isseen throughout the narrative. The woman is diagnosed with “temporarynervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency” by her husbandand his brother (Perkins648). The “rest cure” recommended drives her into deep mentalillness. In the room where she is confined, the yellow wallpaper putsher off, and after spending days, she slips into psychosis. S. DeirMitchell used the therapy approach to treat hysteria in women.However, the technique does not work for the narrator, but sheremains silent due to the high respect accorded to male principles,which dominate their medical practices. In addition, there is abelief that male doctors know what will make her better. Her husbandthreatens to send her to Mitchell if she does not improve. Johnmentions Mitchell’s name because her treatment is not yieldingpositive results proving that women cannot be reliable. The woman isnot allowed to do anything that she thinks would be good for herhealth. She follows her husband’s advice, and it ruins hermentally. The outcome brings out the patriarchal medical practices intheir days.

Thenarrator sees a woman trapped in the wallpaper. This is symbolismshowing a model of male dominance. As the woman`s condition worsens,she hates the woman in the pattern because she is stooping down andcreeping behind the pattern (Perkins652). It is a reflection of her nonetheless, she does not realizethat. She has no way to escape therapy provided and the marriageconfinement. However, when the illness gets worse, she escapeseverything, including the depressing yellow wallpaper. She goes crazyinto her own world where everything looks fine.


Perkins,Charlotte. “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” The National Library ofMedicine. 1892. Web. Retrieved Aug. 16, 2016 from

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